The Ongoing Digital-Backwater Problem

One of my americanski friends recently noticed that there’s no such thing as an unlimited data plan in Canada, and observed that this is insane. He’s right, it is, but he might not be aware of just how insane it is. So I made a chart.

There have been a couple of data plans described as “unlimited” sold here at various times, sure, and you’d think that when a telco sells you an “unlimited” service that would means that they will not limit your use of that service. But what it actually means is “there are lines, a bunch of them, and if you cross any of them you’re going to get raped.” Must be one of those funny little idiosyncracies of Canadian English.

This is a chart of data technologies versus available plans in Canada. The question is: if you run your connection full-out, as fast as it can theoretically run, how long does it take to blow through your allotment of prix-fixe megabytes and what does it cost you to keep going?

It turns out the answers are “not very long” and “holy crap”, respectively. All the data comes from the company’s websites, and those are per second prices, in the highlit areas.

(Note: the numbers for Rogers’ roaming presume that you’re roaming outside of North America.)


  1. Posted June 30, 2008 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Crazy. My Verizon wireless modem tops out at around 2.2 Mbps, so I have a little under 6 hours before they start charging me $0.07/second. My AT&T/iPhone plan is truly unlimited, thankfully.

  2. Posted June 30, 2008 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    In all North American phone and internet usages, not just Canadian ones, “unlimited” has been repurposed to mean “unfiltered” – they do not filter where you can go or what you can do with your bandwidth.

    They have made this change to the language because they are utter bastards.

    What you are looking for is “unmetered”. “Unmetered” is the new “unlimited”. It is also the new “unavailable”, but that’s a different story.

  3. mhoye
    Posted June 30, 2008 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that’s the case: looking at T-Mobile and AT&T’s offerings, they say unlimited data and it looks like they mean it.

  4. Posted June 30, 2008 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    You’re looking at the T-Mobile and AT&T offerings, but are you reviewing their AUPs?

  5. Posted June 30, 2008 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    “Unlimited” tends to mean “If you use too much, we’ll just cut you off, and send you into a labyrinthine maze of insanity to get things restored, but there’s no hard limit, so you don’t even know if you’re getting close.”

    Or, for most people, “unlimited.”

  6. Posted June 30, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I can’t decide which I find more terrifying/hilarious: That you could hit your limit in less than 5 seconds, under certain circumstances, or that it would cost you $100/sec after that if you did.